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HARI Early Parrot Education

Occupational Therapy Devices or Bird Toys?

What?! Your companion bird needs his own device? Yep…and lot’s of them!

HARI Orange Wing AmazonNo worries-there’s no data charges to contend with. But, all birds need something. We at HARI like to refer to what is commonly called “Bird Toys” as Occupational Therapy Devices and for a good reason!

Back in the stone ages, all one thought a bird needed was a piece of rock or rawhide hanging on a chain. Well, as avian care and knowledge have progressed, one needs to look at a “bird toys” with a little more value. If bird toys are important and of value for the well being of a companion bird, avian caretakers are more apt to provide these items for their parrot. Hence-they are Occupational Therapy Devices or OTDs.

Our parrots are not going to be happy or healthy just hanging out on the perch all day. Well, as many seasoned bird owners know, bird toys are classified to serve a purpose. Some encourage independent play, such as foraging toys. Some encourage cognitive exercise, while some actually encourage physical exercise. At HARI, we like to combine play time with function and yes, exercise!

Implementing exercise and entertainment

One of the challenges in keeping a parrot healthy is to provide exercise. How can we get the perch potatoes moving?  One of the most chronic ailments in many companion birds is dealing with overweight condition as a result from lack of exercise.  Birds have wings and they’re designed to fly. We do encourage supervised or monitored flying time for companion birds; yet, we must be responsible with companion birds and their flying exercise regiments. There are many flight harnesses available on the market for this activity. However, one of the objections for many pet owners is trying to get a bird accustomed to the harness. Most of the harnesses do include instructional DVDs of which the pet owner will need to commit to the training for the benefit of the bird. For pet owners challenged with flyingopportunities due to space or perhaps a bird that is clipped, be creative.  What we’re looking for is the opportunity for the bird to rapidly flap his wings and get some cardio exercise. We often utilize the natural behaviors a bird displays during daily showering by placing him on a swinging bungee type rope perch. The perpetual wing flapping the bird automatically does when showered coupled with the birds involuntary response to tighten his grip on the rope perch creates some beneficial exercise for his heart and his toes, plus the bird is getting a bath! Wow! Excercise, bathing and fun!

Double time!

Parrots love to destroy things…and with what purpose? Perhaps it’s to find a treasure and treasures can be edible! Let’s visit the foraging device – it can be a highly sophisticated puzzle-but it can also be a paper bag filled with goodies. Nearly every bird toy can be turned into a foraging device. Once again, we can double up on foraging opportunities with another lesson in nutritional enrichment. The treasure can be an edible item and for our companions that are resistant to extruded diets, this is a proven strategy in implementing a nutritious morsel of Tropican! Our companions will often embrace something they’ve worked for!

GWM-chicks-foraging small
HARI Flock – Greenwings foraging for Tropican in cat scratcher

Tips in OTD Toy Caution & Safety!

Do be careful about which OTDs are offered and where they are offered! Shredable toys can stimulate undesirable hormonal behaviors. This is especially true with companion birds that are entering their adult life stage and this condition can be exasperated with single cage dwellers. We highly suggest that shredable toys be offered in neutral zones such as a play gym or day cage to avoid nesty or territorial behaviors. For more information on this topic, please visit our previous posts Is Your Parrot in Hormonal Overdrive series.

Remember that occupational Therapy Devices are often in need of replacement. Many components in bird toys can be recycled or reused, especially if they are hard acrylic or the c-clamps for hanging.  Always check for worn pieces and replace, especially bird toys with natural fibers that get frayed. If the natural component becomes soiled from food or feces, or exposed to too much moisture, it is best to discard. And, please choose species appropriate items for your bird’s enjoyment!

If you’re in doubt about which toy is appropriate for your pet, consult your avian specialist at your favorite retailer. And, keep a variety of items on hand and change them frequently to avoid boredom!

Need a visual-watch HARI podcast on Natures Treasure’s Toys!


Melanie Allen

About Melanie Allen

Melanie got her start with Parrots in the 1980's with her first parrot, a purchased yellow-naped amazon - who suffered from chronic health issues that stemmed from poor nutrition and inadequate care. Melanie also served as president of Florida Federation of Aviculture, Inc., as a Board Member for National Parrot Rescue & Preservation Foundation, and on the American Federation of Aviculture Nomination Committee. Today, she works closely with aviculturists, retail stores, and companion pet owners, and attends all U.S. “Avi-Industry” conventions, including the American Federation of Aviculture, Avicultural Society of America, and Parrot Festival, on behalf of The Hagen Group.

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